It’s the weekend, and I thought you deserved a little break from all the intense debate that the 9 questions every expat spouse should ask series. The final part will be out tomorrow, but in the mean time, enjoy my the latest family foray into parenting advice. I don’t think Supernanny has anything to fear just yet..
My sister and I have recently been pondering the challenges of raising teenage sons. To be fair, I have the advantage here – not because I boast any special parenting skills, but because her son is eighteen months older than mine, and so I benefit greatly from advance warning of the inevitable crises. It helps.
She, however, has the upper hand in terms of professional training, for while I spent ten years as a college tutor developing the steely eyed gaze necessary to make 17 year old males give written account of their transgressions and the steps required to resolve them, she used to teach Kindergarten and so assumes a low level of understanding and even less compliance. She is also more familiar with chaos, incontinence and uncontrollable tantrums..
So here are our top three tools for managing the behavioral challenges of teenage sons; namely poor attention span, endless hours in the bathroom and the obsession with all things electronic. For the benefit of mothers everywhere, there is the comments section at the bottom for you all to add your own..
Dry wipe markers.
Ignore your local office supply store when they try to sell you and expensive board or piece of glass to accompany your dry erasable marker – teenagers spend endless hours gazing in the mirror, so capitalize on this by writing any messages directly on the glass. Not only does it take more than a single push of a button to delete your instructions, you get the added benefit of introducing them to the world of household cleaning products at the same time. If at any time their attention begins to wander or their response rate drops, simply employ time-honored passive aggressive tactics by writing “I love you, by precious little boy” or “Don’t forget to kiss Teddy goodnight” just before his friends arrive.. Perfect
Pair of scissors.
When birthdays come around and gaming systems are requested, we feel a warm glow at the excitement lighting up their little faces. This warm glow quickly turns to a smoldering rage when we realize that we are now completely superfluous to needs, apart from routine cupboard and fridge filling, and the occasional bout of laundry. Thankfully for parents across the globe, Tesla’s wireless electricity system was never taken seriously, so every electronic recreation device requires some sort of periodic or consistent charge. Careful hiding of batteries can help, but for a more permanent solution, there are scissors. Let me tell you from experience, nothing gets a teenager’s attention quicker than a severed power cable. Just remember to unplug it first, okay?
When I was growing up, there was no such thing as constant hot water. We had an immersion hot water heating system that took at least 30 minutes to heat, and a very large metal bathtub. This meant that washing in the morning was done on a swift and conservative basis (which as the bathroom maintained a sub zero temperature, was no sacrifice) and baths were only ever taken in the evening, on a strict rotation.
It seems strange that at some pivotal moment during their development, boys switch from a hysterical loathing of personal bathing, to permanent residence in the bathroom. And while I am great advocate of personal hygiene in the adolescent male, the endless billowing clouds of steam from unattended showers and the massive utility bills begin to grate on my nerves. Hence the water pebble. This cunning device has an inbuilt timer which is preset by any adult who happens to read the instruction leaflet. It then sits innocently in the bottom of the shower, only triggered into action when the water starts running. It’s insignificant green pulse switches to a more insistent amber flash when you have two minutes left, until at that ‘time’s up’ moment, all Hell breaks loose in the shape of a pulsating red strobe more commonly seen on the roof of police vehicles..
The one we ditched..
Computer time limiter.
I can’t compete with kittens on YouTube, bloopers on damnyouautocorrect.com, or the general insanity that is Facebook. What I can do, however, is set rules for the game. Enter, a genius program which allows you to limit the screen time they have access to. In an ideal world, I’d make them generate their own electricity using pedal power, but until that day comes, I’m comforting myself with pulling the virtual plug.
Update. I was wrong. Teenage boys are far more tech savvy than we can ever hope to be, and what starts out as a tool to manage them deteriorates quickly into a cyber battle for supremacy which parents inevitably lose. I have resorted to the a more effective, low tech solution (see “scissors”)..
Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress